Friday, August 7, 2009

Principle, Preference, Priority (the great divide)

Principle is principle. Principle is not preference, principle is not priority, principle is principle. Preference is not principle, preference is not priority, preference is preference. Priority is not principle, priority is not preference, priority is priority. Principle is principle.

“So how are things, anything I can pray with you about?”

This was the question that started it all. I candidly replied with a somewhat detailed and transparent description of my current life stage. I explained how I feel like I just don’t care about God anymore and that I can’t feel Him and have been having a hard time with life transition. He offered no immediate break through prescriptions, but later in the night I’d be hit with what I’ve been needing to hear for almost 6 months now!
So what is it I needed to hear?

Principle is principle. Principle is not preference, principle is not priority, principle is principle. Preference is not principle, preference is not priority, preference is preference. Priority is not principle, priority is not preference, priority is priority. Principle is principle.

How?

I have felt this tension within myself for a long time now, but haven’t found anyone who has actually been through anything similar. When I first moved to Indianapolis I was very new to my faith and very very hungry to learn more. I enrolled in Bible College and started learning as much as I could. I was like a crack addict; I lived for the education I was getting. I would spend hours in Starbucks reading and studying for myself outside of school. I was learning so much all at once that I felt like I was on top of the world. I was single, independent, and spent all of my time learning and spending time with God through whatever means (study, prayer, song, etc.) although studying was the best means for me because I am a nerd. Now I am in a serious relationship, a little more mature and educated, and spend less of my time like I used to. What I do, which is unhealthy, is compare myself, now, to who I was. I have this twisted idea that who I was is the best and who I am now doesn’t measure up. So I am constantly looking for ways to return to that way. In order to do that though, I’d have to give up what I have now, which makes me who I am. This tension has been building in me for a while now and I have had no outlet that made me feel any better about it until last night. Last night I started a class in order to finally complete my degree at Crossroad Bible College. I was not sure who would be my professor and I walk into see what is one of my favorite professors, who greets me and asks, “So how are things, anything I can pray with you about?” This begins my journey to where I am this morning, my delivery from a very hard burden I’ve been dealing with.

We get into this conversation about priorities, principles, and preferences and another student in the class, well the only other one, we have a 2 person class, so much more like a discipleship deal than college class, but this other student starts talking about how difficult having a son has been. She begins describing how she used to be all about spending time in the Word and devoting hours to study and prayer and then she talks about how having a son has changed how she does things because her priorities have changed, but it’s been hard because she feels far from God. Sweet sassy molassy, I can relate to that! I begin to process her discourse and as I’m mulling it over, staring at the ceiling, biting on my bottom lip, something happens; I hear from God exactly what I need to hear. It wasn’t an all powerful, movie trailer type voice in my head or a specific scripture that was brought to my mind, but a simple, yet complex idea.

Principle is principle. Principle is not preference, principle is not priority, principle is principle. Preference is not principle, preference is not priority, preference is preference. Priority is not principle, priority is not preference, priority is priority. Principle is principle.

It took me analyzing another person’s situation to actually get it. It’s like I was talking to her and my professor, but I was truly saying what I needed to hear. My heart began to shine and the weight from my chest was lifted as I heard myself describe a concept that I needed to hear, maybe more than anyone else in that room.

Let’s tear apart some terms first in order to understand the general idea/concept. Principle is a central point from which things wing, kind of like a foundation, like an objective ideal. An example of a principle I have is to not ever try to fake. Based on that principle I act a certain way depending on situations. There are other principles that many people have and for me most come from the Bible. The major principle in my life is to live my life the Way Jesus did and to apply all He taught in loving others. A preference is something that is subjective and can change depending on the situation. My preferences should never change my principle, rather a principle should change my preferences. A preference I have is for the color green. So if I were looking for a vehicle and there was a green Aston Martin Vanquish in the room with a black Honda Accord I would choose the Honda. But your preference is green though, what’s up with that? The principle is to be wise with my money though. So my principle drives me to choose the Honda over the lovely Green Vanquish. Simple right? Now, on to priorities. This is simply a way of putting things in order based upon life and your principle. So your principle still dictates preference and priority, but priority is only based upon principle.

My principle is to love Jesus and follow His way of life. My priorities and preferences when I first moved to Indy look a ton different than they do now. Here’s where I went wrong and why all this means so much to me. My principle has not changed just priorities and preferences. I threw them all in to on basket and said if anything changes so does my principle. The truth is my principle in life has not changed at all since I met Jesus, just priorities and preferences. As I listened to this mother/classmate talk about how she now has the priority of taking care of her son and different preferences, but still has the principle of loving and living for God I saw my failure to make healthy distinctions between the three. So I now realize that principles in themselves do not necessitate static preferences or priorities and must not morph based upon their transforming. I allowed myself to think that because my priorities and preferences were changing so were my principles. If my principle changed then I would truly need to have a really hard look at myself, but they haven’t! This is amazing news for me!

That unwholesome dichotomy produced even more unhealthy choices and thoughts. If I believed my principle was tainted then I would stop living by my principle. So now when I want to read the Bible I don’t, when I want to pray, I feel ashamed, because I think I am an imposter with only practices and no principle. The truth behind all the lies though is that my principle has not changed. This is a beautiful revelation for me. I don’t know if you ever feel this, but I have been searching for this answer, this writing, this thought for a while now and finally found it. I hope this can help you in some way. May you know your principle, may you not confuse it with priority or preference, and may you love God and love others as a principle and build upon that no matter what else changes, even priorities and preferences.

Principle is principle. Principle is not preference, principle is not priority, principle is principle. Preference is not principle, preference is not priority, preference is preference. Priority is not principle, priority is not preference, priority is priority. Principle is principle.

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